Rich Man? Poor Man!

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 22, 2006 | Go to article overview

Rich Man? Poor Man!


Byline: GAVIN NEWSHAM

You know how it is - money's no object and you want the best... and that means drinks, too.

Gavin Newsham lines up the world's finest and most expensive selections for your dream cabinet...

Are you one of those drinkers who finds themselves easily intimidated by the pricey topshelf bottles in the local off-licence? If so, you might want to look away now because here, in all its glory, is Live's millionaire drinks cabinet, a collection of the finest, most exclusive and prohibitively expensive drinks on Earth.

But what makes these drinks so coveted and so jawdroppingly dear? The value lies not so much in the taste (although they do, without exception, taste sensational), rather that they are as rare as an Alex Ferguson apology and boast a production process so complex it makes nuclear fusion seem like a toddler's jigsaw puzzle.

'The price of these drinks is down to quality, rarity and demand,' explains Joss Fowler, a master of wine at Berry Bros and Rudd, the famous London wine merchants. 'But you can taste the difference, although this might not always be commensurate with the considerable increase in price.' The trouble for those of us with limited means is that there's a hefty price to pay for such exclusivity and such lavish attention to detail. So if you want to make that leap from Cava to Krug, you're going to need not just the know-how but the wherewithal as well.

The knowledge starts here. *

1 SHERRY

Relic Barbadillo Pedro Ximenez, [pounds sterling]375 Produced by one of the largest sherry houses in Spain, the age of this gem is a mystery.

Nobody, not even the maker, knows the exact date - the only records that Barbadillo holds suggest that it was created some time in the first half of the 19th century.

However, it is without doubt one of the finest sherries available. 'The level of purity and all-out quality here are unmatched,' says Harriet Waugh of Harrods. 'Although jammed with richness, it is incredibly balanced, complex and lusciously long.' harrods.com, 020 7730 1234 Too expensive? Go for Valdespino Pedro Ximenez Solera Supremo, around [pounds sterling]27

2. GIN

Martin Miller's Westbourne Strength gin, [pounds sterling]34.99 You're hard pressed to find gin that costs more than around [pounds sterling]20 but even so, this bottle should really have a price tag that reflects the extraordinary lengths to which this distiller goes to produce its awardwinning blend. It is distilled in the Black Country in the same way as a malt whisky. Then it's packed off to Iceland to be blended with the very purest spring water before a secret ingredient is added. It is then bottled and shipped back. The result is a gin so smooth it can even be drunk neat.

selfridges.com, 08708 377 377 Too expensive? Go for the ever-trustworthy Tanqueray, around [pounds sterling]18.

3. ARMAGNAC

1886 Armagnac, J Nismes-Delclou, [pounds sterling]1,100 Apart from the region in France it comes from, the difference between armagnac and cognac is that armagnac is distilled just once while cognac is distilled twice.

Stashed away to mature at the tail-end of the 19th century, this 120-year-old armagnac is now out on the market. The key to all brandies (and the reason great ones like this cost so much) is that they benefit from painfully long maturation - the theory being that, like many people, they become infinitely more interesting and mellow with old age.

bbr.com, 0870 900 4300 Too expensive? Try a 1984 J Nismes-Delclou, [pounds sterling]35.

4. VODKA

Kauffman Vintage 2002, [pounds sterling]112 Launched in Russia in 2002 and presented in bottles that owe more to perfumeries than distilleries, Kauffman is the world's first vintage vodka.

Only 20,000 individually numbered bottles are produced in a year and only on the condition that the quality of the grain is good enough to maintain Kauffman's stratospherically high standards. …

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